As the Luftwaffe's presence in southern and central France unravelled, orders were issued for the evacuation of the airfields at Avignon and Lyon. All aircraft and crews of 1.(F)/33 were to transfer at once to Luftflotte 2's area: flying elements Bergamo-South (Orio al Serio), ground echelons to Landsberg and the Stab to Kaufbeuren. Advance detachments of KG 26 were to prepare for transfer to Cameri, Lonate and Gallarate, III./KG 100 to Villafranca di Verona. Once there, the bombers were to rest and restore serviceability.
At 09.15 hours and order was given to alert German ships that pairs of Bf 109s would be operating continuously over Armee Liguria’s area and that they must not be fired upon. This suggests German concern to have reconnaissance cover of any the Allied advances in Southern France that might threaten the border with Italy.
At 17.00, Fl.Div. 2 announced that its Battle HQ would be at Montélimar until the 24th and that new command posts were being prepared at Kaufbeuren and at Merate in Italy. Thirty minutes later, it was signalled that part of the Divisional Operations Staff was being transferred to Kaufbeuren. At midnight there was a report of greatly increased guerilla activity at Montélimar: the airfield was under constant artillery fire and a Ju 52 had been unable to land. This battle perhaps accounts for II./KG 26's casualties for the day: three dead and 15 wounded. All Remaining KG 26 aircraft were due to take off at dawn for Kaufbeuren and so an an army battle group was due to clear the area between the city and the river Drôme on the 23rd.
Allied reconnaissance reported that by the 23rd only 15 fighters and ten tactical reconnaissance aircraft were "occasionally observed north of Lyon." A Mosquito of No. 151 Sqn. on a "Ranger" mission strafed a Bf 109 on a landing ground south east of Nîmes, observing no results beyond the injury of some unfortunate ground crewmen. No aircraft were seen on any of the other airfields this intruder visited.
At 08.55 hours, two Bf 109s, "chevron, lightning flash" (as the Allies translated it) and "white 8", left Airasca, landing at Ghedi I about an hour later. These two probably represented the last stragglers from II./JG 77's journey back from France — Airasca had been a stopover en route to and from Caritat.
continued on next page …